International Women's Day

Worldwide rallies and events for women's rights

Activities arranged to push for gender equality and an end to sexual harassment

MANILA/SEOUL • Women's rights activists in the Philippines marched in Manila against President Rodrigo Duterte, South Korean women rallied in support of the #MeToo movement in Seoul, and workers in Spain went on an unprecedented strike to defend women's rights on International Women's Day yesterday.

Around the world, events were held to push for progress on gender equality and in the fight against sexual harassment.

But it was retailers that dominated in China, with women being offered coupons and discounts on everything ranging from sportswear to cosmetics to healthcare to get them to spend more.

In Manila, women's rights activists staged a rally against Mr Duterte, denouncing his controversial comments about women and his treatment of female political opponents, reported news agency Agence France-Presse.

Mr Duterte has come under fire from rights groups for making rape jokes and he said last month that he had ordered soldiers to shoot female insurgents in the genitals.

His congressional allies yesterday began an impeachment process against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, on charges of corruption and other crimes. Ms Sereno, one of the Philippines' highest-ranking women, was an outspoken critic of Mr Duterte's administration, said Bloomberg.

In Seoul, hundreds of women and men held placards bearing the hashtag #MeToo, in a sign that the country had been swept up by the global movement against sexual harassment and assault.

The South Korean government yesterday vowed to strengthen laws against sexual assault and implement measures to reduce harassment after a string of scandals involving prominent figures in politics, entertainment and literature, Reuters reported.

On Tuesday, a provincial governor from the ruling Democratic Party, Mr Ahn Hee Jung, resigned from politics after an aide accused him of multiple rapes in a television interview.

In Spain, women took part in a 24-hour strike to protest against gender inequality and sexual discrimination, reported Agence France-Presse. The strike was called by 10 unions and backed by the countries' top female politicians and famous women, including Spanish actress Penelope Cruz.

Feminist groups had also asked women not to spend money and to ditch their domestic chores for the day. Hundreds of trains were cancelled as part of the strike.

In a sobering sign of the progress still to be made on gender equality, the United Nations' labour agency on Wednesday warned that women on average remained much less likely to participate in the labour market than men.

At present, some 48.5 per cent of women and girls over the age of 15 are part of the global workforce, the International Labour Organisation said in a report. That is 26.5 percentage points below the rate of male participation.

When women do participate in the labour market, they are far more likely to have informal jobs with low wages and few protections, the report said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2018, with the headline 'Worldwide rallies and events for women's rights '. Print Edition | Subscribe